Couple holding hands. How to date as an adult
By 6 min readCategories: Relationships

Dating is one of the most rewarding activities we take on as human beings, ideally ending in a partnership for life.

Dating can also be frustrating however, especially for adults, with less natural opportunities to meet new people and with more hesitance to put our real selves on display for someone new. Dating as an adult pushes us to ask what we want out of ourselves, out of our lives, and out of a partner.

Here are the best dating practices to help protect your mental health while searching for the one for you!

Spend Some Time with Yourself

You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with dating?” The fact of the matter is, if you don’t love who you are, you may struggle to have that capacity for someone else. Another way to phrase this? if you don’t have a strong sense of self-worth or self-esteem, your relationships may suffer more than you would like.

Think of this as a gift to yourself. Spending time alone with yourself can promote a healthy sense of self, allow you to regulate your emotions, and ultimately support secure attachment in your romantic relationships. Your bond with your future partner will be stronger because you took the time to get to know yourself. Now, you can share that self with someone else.

Communicate Openly

When you do go on dates with someone, it’s important to communicate honestly and openly – whether it’s the first date or you’ve been together for months. This can be difficult, especially in the early stages of a relationship when everything is ruled by a powerful combination of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin – our “happy hormones”- things that might normally irritate you are so easy to overlook. However, a good foundation is one that’s laid well in the beginning.

Be direct and honest about things whether little or big and remember to tell your truth with compassion without excusing the other person’s actions.

Be Respectful

The foundation of every strong relationship is respect. Treat your date with consideration and empathy for their needs. When you’re dating someone, mutual respect helps build trust and a sense of safety between the two of you so you can be vulnerable together and navigate the new territory of your relationship.

Bring Yourself on the Date

However, don’t bother being respectful if it’s just a facade or a means to an end. No one likes to go on a date with someone they thought they were getting to know, only to realize a few dates in – or in some cases, a few years in – that they didn’t really know the other person at all. While you can always learn something new about your partner, the person sitting across the table from you wants to know you as you are now. They don’t want to know the person you think you need to be to impress them. So, bring your real self on the date and find people who like spending time with you just as you are.

Make Sure Interest is Mutual

Are you initiating all of your time together? Recognizing when one person puts in more effort than the other is important. You’re probably going to go on a lot of dates before you find your person. This means that you’ll have to tell a lot of people – or get told by other people – that you appreciate their time but don’t see this relationship going any further.

That’s fine! You’re not meant to like everyone, and everyone isn’t meant to like you. The sooner you can be honest about the fact that you need the other person to put in more effort or that this relationship just isn’t working for you, the sooner you can find someone better suited for you.

Take Your Time

Whether you’ve never been in a romantic relationship or are putting yourself back out there after the end of a long and committed relationship, it’s important to go slow when you’re dating. At the beginning of a relationship, happy hormones are surging, and you crave your date’s company all the time. You think everything they say is hilarious, and you just want to spend time with them. This is a normal biological response during the initial “infatuation” stage, but it’s important to remember it’s just that: infatuation.

That doesn’t mean it won’t turn into something more. However, maintaining your sense of independence during this time and taking things slowly – think one date a week vs. “I have to see you every night”- are important tools to building that healthy foundation.

Discuss Your Values and Interests

While discussing your political views over appetizers may not be considered advisable, the end goal of dating is to find your person. Tell dates about yourself, your hobbies, and what lights you up. You should discuss values at some point, too – just maybe not as the very first topic of conversation.

When considering your values, think about what’s non-negotiable for you. Do you care if your future partner shares your religious views? Political views? Moral views? When you know what you want in a future partner, you can determine if you and the person you’re dating are ultimately aligned. You can date someone who ticks most of your boxes – but if your values don’t align, the relationship probably won’t get very far.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Maintaining a healthy sense of self and a life outside of the relationship is important in all relationship phases. These can best be protected by setting healthy boundaries that are communicated clearly and compassionately. For example, “I have a standing dinner with friends every Wednesday from 5 to 7, but I’m available afterward.”

Identify your individual needs, be it a certain amount of alone time, breaks from discussing emotionally heavy subjects, or time to devote to a professional pursuit, and communicate those needs in a timely manner. It’s not “timely” on a first date, but if you’re seeing someone regularly, it’s respectful to let them know what your needs are and what boundaries you have in place around your time and energy.

You can work on balancing your needs with those of the person you see. It’s not intuitive, but with a communicative, mature partner, you’ll find a way to get what you need out of a relationship and give them what they need, too.

Listen to Your Intuition

Don’t ignore your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or know this person isn’t for you, trust your intuition. You are your own best ally when making decisions about romantic relationships.

Seek Support When You Enrich Your Dating Life

Dating is a fulfilling way to meet new people and eventually meet the person you’d like to be with for life. Undoubtedly, it can be frustrating and filled with challenges, though. If you think the support of a trained mental health professional would benefit you as you build healthy self-confidence and put yourself out there again, don’t hesitate to contact Inspire Behavioral Health. Learn more about how our one-to-one and support group options can benefit your everyday life!

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